EU 'to ban' Ivory Coast's Laurent Gbagbo

Media caption,
Protests following Ivory Coast's disputed presidential election continue

The EU is set to impose a travel ban on Ivory Coast's President Laurent Gbagbo over disputed elections, diplomats say.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy had given him until Sunday to step down.

Mr Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara both say they won last month's election and have each named cabinet ministers amid a stand-off in the main city Abidjan.

The UN - which has extended the mandate of its peacekeeping force by six months - the West, and African leaders have all said Mr Ouattara was the victor.

There are fears that the dispute could reignite civil war in the world's largest cocoa producer.

About 50 people have been killed in recent days, according to UN human rights chief Navi Pillay.

She said she had received reports of hundreds of people being snatched from their homes by people in military uniforms. Some were later found dead.

Mass grave reports

A spokeswoman for the EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told the BBC that an agreement had been taken in principle to ban Mr Gbagbo, his wife and 17 other close associates, from the EU.

The spokeswoman, Maja Kocijancic, told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that the travel ban would come into effect after it had been formally adopted, which she said would happen by Wednesday.

She said that the EU was also working on freezing Mr Gbagbo's assets but said this needed a different legal basis and so might not happen until January.

A US official last week said he and his family had "multiple homes in multiple countries".

Over the weekend, Mr Gbagbo demanded that the 10,000-strong UN peacekeeping mission be withdrawn from the country, accusing the UN of bias in favour of Mr Ouattara.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon immediately rejected the demand.

One of Mr Gbagbo's closest allies, youth leader Charles Ble Goude, on Sunday told a rally in Abidjan: "This battle that we began in 2002 - we are ready to die for it."

Mr Goude, who is on a UN sanctions list after his Young Patriots group were accused of killing, raping and assaulting opposition supporters, has been named Mr Gbagbo's youth minister.

Some of his supporters accuse former colonial power France of meddling in Ivory Coast's politics. It has a military base there and retains strong economic ties to the country.

In Abidjan, the UN special envoy to Ivory Coast said he was "very concerned" at reports of a mass grave, following the reported abduction of some 470 people.

Choi Young-jin said a UN team has been prevented from investigating the reports.

Following accusations that Mr Gbagbo's allies have recruited Liberian mercenaries, there have also been unconfirmed reports of attacks on Liberians living in Abidjan.

Liberia's government has previously warned its citizens not to get involved in the Ivory Coast crisis.

UN troops are protecting the luxury Abidjan hotel where Mr Ouattara has been based since the disputed election.

Mr Ouattara, a former IMF economist from the north of the country, was initially declared the winner by the electoral commission.

But the Constitutional Council then annulled the vote in many rebel-held areas of the north, after Mr Gbagbo's allies complained of fraud.

The Council then said Mr Gbagbo had won, with 51% of the vote.

But the UN mission in Ivory Coast, Unoci, which was involved in organising the election, said Mr Ouattara was the victor.

The election was intended to reunify Ivory Coast, which has been split into two parts since a 2002 civil war.

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